Handless to Those Who Hit You, Tongueless to Those Who Curse You

Honorable ministers and parliamentarians, enlightened people of the world of art, members of various religions, and esteemed guests: I greet you with my most sincere salaam and hope that this night will be beneficial for all of us. I'm one of those who made arrangements for this evening. And I admit this at every opportunity. However, I had a little bit of difficulty in participating in this meeting, because although everyone holds the fast during the month of Ramadan, in my case the fast holds me. I have a serious diabetes problem. Only 2 or 3 hours after the fast is over do I begin feeling a little normal. For this reason, I had hoped that I would be forgiven if I did not attend this evening. But I was wrong. So for my friends' sake and yours, I am attending the meeting and am in your presence. I give you my respects once again.

From the day the Journalists' and Writers' Foundation was established until now even if things were not always as we wished we can say that you always have organized important activities. But somehow I could never participate fully in any of them. For this reason, I cannot claim a share in their success.

This foundation has performed important services. It brought world-famous soccer players here for aid to Bosnia. Every year it has brought together special groups like you on various platforms, preparing for at least an exchange of ideas. Regardless of our views and thoughts, it has suggested on which idea we can come together. As a result, we have seen with our own eyes that there's no reason to fear one another, and that all people can meet with whomever they want. If we have not come together until today, it means that we have been hung up on our mistaken conjectures and neglected an important human responsibility.

The foundation is known in Turkey mainly as a representative of tolerance. In fact, it has identified itslef with tolerance. Whenever it is mentioned, immediately after that tolerance is mentioned as well. In fact, the envy aroused by the foundation's image has caused several alternative organizations to appear. Now they are singing the same tune. I believe that for this reason tolerance is going to spread faster to the grassroots, diffuse throughout the country and, as an artist friend said, we'll walk head to head, heart to heart, and hand in hand toward "happy tomorrows," God willing.

Actually, what the foundation or alternative groups have done regarding this issue is to bring out a quality that already exists in the spirit of our noble nation. Until today there were certain obstacles, and this quality could not be reached and brought out. Whereas, in addition to jihad in Islam, which is inaccurately explained and understood, there are activities designed to raise humanity to a level of real humanity. In other words, in the essence of explaining beauty and goodness, there is the idea of removing obstacles between people and God. If the foundation has removed the obstacles preventing this precious quality from appearing in our people's spirit, then it has accomplished a very important duty.

When the Prophet was dying and about to pass on to the next world, he stated: "I place in your trust the People of the Book, the Christians and Jews." When 'Umar was in the throes of death due to a dagger wound, he warned: "I place the minorities among us in your trust. Fear God regarding them and treat them justly." After defeating the enemy at Malazgirt, the Turkish commander Sultan Alparslan hosted the military chiefs and ruler of the rival state in his tent. He then had them conveyed safely to their capital, Constantinople, escorted by some of his officers. In Jerusalem, the commander and ruler Sultan Salahaddin Ayyubi went at night to the tent of Richard, the commander of the Crusader army, to treat (?? Yes, he was also a doctor) him. This was despite the fact that Richard's forces had killed thousands of Muslims.

We are the children of a culture that produced such men. We are the heirs of the culture that has the world's broadest, most comprehensive, and most universal tolerance. This understanding and view is spreading today like the waves in the sea, and reaching the four corners of the Earth. I fully believe that the coming years will be years of tolerance and love. In this framework we're going to give the world a lot and receive a lot. Let alone fighting with our own people, we will not even be fighting with other cultures, civilizations, or people of other beliefs and world-views. Issues leading to argument and opposition will be resolved completely, and once again understanding the power of love, we'll open our hearts to everyone with love and compassion. With God's help, we'll realize the important matters of dialogue and tolerance, which today's world needs so much.

When I saw Izzettin Dogan, I remembered a hadith relating to 'Ali. Mentioning a group in Nehrivan that was lying in ambush for him, 'Ali said: "It would have been unjust for us to attack them before they attacked us." We are a society nurtured by the culture of such commanders. At a time when we are in great need of it, with God's grace, every segment of society will stand up for tolerance and dialogue, and the good things born from this will spread even faster than hoped for in every direction.

Maybe I'm going to take too much of your time, but I cannot proceed without mentioning the anxiety I feel. Turkish society, which has been wrung by internal conflict, was awaiting tolerance just at this time. Upon finding it, when one step toward it was made with this view, it responded with three steps. But it also is obvious that certain weak and marginal persons, who by ranting and raving demonstrate their own weaknesses and try to show themselves as strong by being destructive, will lie in ambush to attack tolerance and attempt to destroy the bridges to dialogue. We're going to have to face great tests after this. Our nation, which already has passed through many trials, will face these future tests by means of solidarity among individuals, and will overcome every obstacle in the path to social harmony. God reveals in the Qur'an: I swear, We are going to test some of you with others. (6:53)

What we are seeking is very valuable. The goal of tolerance and dialogue that we want to reach will cost a lot. Just as it is not easy to achieve such precious and expensive things, it is difficult to protect them once they've been achieved. Attaining social harmony by means of dialogue and tolerance is a matter of achieving two valuable things in order to realize a third. God is going to test us in different ways in order for us to realize how great this value is and, accordingly, for us to stand up for it.

Throughout all these trials we're going to endure and say:

If harshness comes from God's Majesty,
Or generosity from His Grace;
Both are delights to the soul
He's pleasing in His blessings, pleasing in His wrath.

We must be as if "handless to those who hit us and tongueless to those who curse us." If they try and break us 50 times, still we're going to remain unbroken and embrace everyone with love and compassion. And, with love toward one another, we'll walk towards tomorrow.

Again, I wish for this happy evening to be an occasion for mercy and forgiveness. I greet you all with my deepest respect.

This speech has been addressed at the breaking-of-the-fast meal given by the Journalists' and Writers' Foundation, February 11, 1995, at the Polat Renaissance Hotel. 1995-11-02 00:00:00

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